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Confederation College program transformed 'to further support decolonization' (2 Photos)

College President Kathleen Lynch says it will contribute to reconciliation and healing

THUNDER BAY — Confederation College announced a new name Wednesday for its Native Child and Family Services program.

It's now known as Onajigawin Indigenous Services.

Onajigawin is an Anishinaabemowin word that means "being prepared for the work that you will be doing as a helper."

The new name was chosen in conjunction with program changes which the college said will ensure students will be educated with diverse populations "in anti-oppressive ways."

Program Coordinator Pam Burton said a review was started in 2019 in an effort to better reflect the contemporary context and reality of graduates' work to support Indigenous children, families and communities.

The process involved representatives from across the college community alongside 12 partnership agencies.

"Change is never easy, but absolutely necessary on the path of cultural humility," Burton said, adding that the new vision for the program will prepare graduates with an increased focus on the decolonization of systems within the human and community services field.

Curriculum development and assessment will have a decolonized approach, and graduates will leave the school "prepared with a basket full of culturally safe tools, which they will need to walk safely with those they will be helping," said a statement issued by the college.

Courtney Forbes is a 2021 graduate of the former Native Child and Family Services program.

She said renewal of the program means hope and a new beginning.

"It's what the ancestors have been waiting for, the first step in the right direction. Training for Anishinaabe and non-Anishinaabe to be helping people in the community."

Forbes added that she would love to see more Indigenous people helping their families for the sense of community.

"We also need strong allies, helpers to learn the ways and go in with a good lens to support Indigenous families."

Advisory committee chair Serena Essex of the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre called the new direction "highly respectful of the reclamation of bringing it back to the land and core values of being a traditional helper."

The program will welcome its first class in the fall of 2021.

It is being offered at all Confederation campuses and via Distance Education.

College President Kathleen Lynch said the Onajigawin Indigenous Services program is one of many ways the college is contributing to reconciliation and healing.

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